We had a very unique and blessed opportunity yesterday as we participated in a special church service for the installation of our new pastor, Ed (and Mary) Quillin. Having retired from Pastoring at Three Lakes Community Bible Church near Troy, Montana, Kathy and I have been attending Faith Bible Church in Libby. Kathy’s dad, Clarence Kutz, was the first pastor of the church way back in 1955! Since he retired, there have been quite a number of pastors and a number of them left because of problems and left a hurting church. More than a decade ago Pastor Laurie Stuck came to FBC and really helped the church heal and become healthy again. But, Laurie and his wife Barb, felt that they needed to move to Yakima to help care for elderly, failing parents, so Pastor Stuck retired a few months ago and they now live in Yakima. Dave (and Kathy!) Butler came to serve as the interim pastor and did a fantastic job of teaching God’s Word and caring for the flock.
Meanwhile, the Search Committee selected a new pastor candidate, Ed Quillin, who was unanimously elected by the membership. Yesterday the worship service was an official installation of Pastor Ed. The District Superintendent of the Evangelical Free Church, Lee Kisman, came and gave a charge to Pastor Ed and Mary. Dave Butler returned to give a charge to the congregation. The associate (youth) pastor, Garret Dietrich, also gave a brief charge to the new senior pastor. In the congregation were also two of us as retired pastors, so we had seven pastors present. Along with our wives, we made up more than 10% of the congregation. That, in itself, is quite unusual, but it was also quite amazing to see the smooth transition of leadership take place without any tension or division. The congregation was saddened to see the Stucks leave, and had already grown to love and appreciate Dave Butler, but at the same time is excited to see what God is going to do under the new shepherd as he guides and guards and grazes the flock.
When you think of the turmoil and chaos and anger and divisive hatred that often accompany the change of leadership in a church or in government of a nation, what we witnessed yesterday was a pretty amazing display of what the grace of God can do when allowed. And the charges given were spot on biblically.
First the associate pastor, Garret, read Paul’s charge to his understudy Timothy, whom he had left in charge of the church at Ephesus, to “…preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort with great patience and instruction” (II Tim. 4:2).
Next, Rev. Lee Kisman, gave a charge to the new pastor based on I Tim. 4:16 where Paul charges Timothy to “Pay close attention to yourself and to your teaching…” It is crucial that a person in leadership stay healthy spiritually (and physically) in order to set a good example for the flock (cf I Tim. 1:16; 4:12) and not negate the message by failing to “walk worthy of their calling” (Eph. 4:1), for, as the southern gospel song goes, “Your walk talks louder than you talk talks!” When a pastor doesn’t walk the walk, his integrity is doubted, his ministry is discredited, the saints are discouraged and devastated, the congregation is decimated and the adversaries of God celebrate. And, of course the shepherd of the flock must “pay close attention to their teaching.” He must “Be diligent to present yourself approved to God as a workman who does not need to be ashamed, handling accurately the word of truth” ( Tim. 2:15). A pastor must “Retain the standard of sound words (doctrine)…” and “Guard through the Holy Spirit who dwells in us, the treasure which has been entrusted to us” (II Tim. 1:13.14).
Then Pastor Butler gave a charge to the congregation, based on Heb. 13:17,18 to “Obey your leaders, and submit to them; for they keep watch over your souls, as those who will give an account. Let them do this with joy and not with grief, for this would be unprofitable for you. Prayer for us…to conduct ourselves honorably in all things.” While we must not blindly follow our spiritual leader, but be like the Bereans who, regarding the teaching of the Apostle Paul, “examined the Scriptures daily, to see whether these things were so” (Acts 17:11), we are to submit to the authority of those God has placed over us for our spiritual welfare, and not be a troublemaker (sowing discord) that causes them grief. They have a sobering responsibility. James writes in his epistle: “Let not many of you become teachers, my brethren, knowing that as such we shall incur a stricter judgment” (Jas. 3:1). So, above all we need to pray for our spiritual leaders. There will be no power from the pulpit unless there is prayer from the pews! Pray for their spiritual protection and victory against the enemy who would try to discourage and destroy their ministry. Pray that they are diligent and focused to rightly divide the Scriptures. Pray for their marriage to stay healthy and strong. Pray for their encouragement and joy to remain. Pray that they not become weary in well doing but remain steadfast. Do all you can to bring them joy and not grief in their shepherding of the flock.
Finally the former pastor, Laurie Stuck, closed the service, as he “handed off the baton,” and prayed for Pastor Ed and for the church body.
It was a beautiful service and exciting to be part of what I’m sure brought glory to God and was just a little taste of what heaven will be like and what the church can and should be.